The Ash House by Angharad Walker

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The Ash House by Angharad Walker

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: The Ash House is a moving YA novel that explores friendship, belonging and the power of love and kindness. Darkly gripping, this is an excellent introduction to Gothic literature for readers aged 10 and up.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: September 2021
Publisher: Chicken House
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1912626977

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A new boy arrives at The Ash House. He doesn't know his name, or why he is there but he is used to the system, used to different places and different faces. He meets Dom who names him Sol and sets out to teach him the rules of The Ash House. These rules centre on a variety of Nicenesses set out by the absent Headmaster. All children must remember their Niceness and complete their chores, working as a hive in the smouldering shadows of The Ash House. But soon their easy peace is shattered by the arrival of the Doctor. By the end of the story, lives will be changed forever and The Ash House will never be the same again.

The Ash House is a vivid and rich read, full of well rounded and complex characters. Each child has their own voice and it is easy to fall into the world that Walker has built. Wound around the striking imagery and fantasy elements of the story are a number of themes including the power of friendship, physical and mental illness and disability and the importance of critical thinking. In the face of great danger, Dom must decide if he is going to continue to follow the rules or if he will breach his moral code to save his friends. This is a complex subject but it is handled with great care and compassion. Friendship and the significance of the family you create for yourself is central in this story, with the children of The Ash House working together to survive when the Doctor arrives.

Overall, this is a great introduction to the spooky Gothic style for younger readers, it is dark at points and filled with peril. Alongside the fantastical elements of the story and the maniacal doctor is a much more sobering storyline about unwanted children and the care system. Walker pulls no punches, but this is no bad thing. This is a good introduction to such topics, written about in an empathic and benevolent manner.

Confident readers who enjoy stories about personal growth and historical fiction may also enjoy The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation Volume 1 The Pox Party by M T Anderson.

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